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How the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service is saving lives amid the coronavirus pandemic

As Northern Ireland continues to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, every sector, from health to business, has had to adapt accordingly - and the Northern Ireland Blood Tranfusion Service (NIBTS) is no different.

Due to the restrictions in place, blood donations are down 30%, however demand has also decreased due to the lack of operations taking place as the health service focuses on Covid-19.

Social distancing rules have slowed down the ability to donate, for instance mobile donation centres cannot provide the necessary space so the service has had to explore other venues, such as leisure centres.

Our reporter Ben Tucker, whose wife required a blood transfusion after losing five units of blood during the birth of their second child, wanted to return the favour and visited the NIBTS headquarters in Belfast to see how they are operating in times of coronavirus.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Upon arrival, Shannon Duke, a donor services assistant, marks off the donor's appointment time, with appointments at 15 minute intervals to reduce risk and contact with others.

The donor is then asked three questions to ensure they are fit and healthy enough to donate, before their temperature is taken to check it is not too high - a symptom of Covid-19.

Haemoglobin levels are measured and the donor has to complete a medical questionnaire, if it is their first time donating, before proceeding to the donation suite.

Once in position on a bed, the donor is then hooked up with a line and a blood bag and the donation begins, lasting around ten minutes.

Upon completion, the donated blood will be sampled, processed and validated, before being added to blood bank stocks, joining the 850 units needed each week by hospitals across Northern Ireland.

The entire process takes around 24 hours from the point of donation to being patient-ready.

During the pandemic, traveling to donate blood has been classed as an essential journey and the NIBTS has called on those who wish to donate blood to do their part and help save lives.

To find out more information on how to donate, visit the NIBTS website here.

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